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Dyson alumnus brings lively new energy to Finger Lakes goat dairy

Dave Messmer ’17 has been learning a thing or two about dairy farming since he was six years old. Now, almost 25 years later, he is putting that knowledge to work at a new level as co-owner of Lively Run Goat Dairy in Interlaken, New York. Above, Pete Messmer, Katie Shaw and Dave Messemer '17 (left to right) on Lively Run. Photo by Heather Ainsworth

Dave Messmer ’17 has been learning a thing or two about dairy farming since he was six years old. Now, almost 25 years later, he is putting that knowledge to work at a new level as co-owner of Lively Run Goat Dairy in Interlaken, New York. In production since 1982, Lively Run is one of the longest operating commercial goat dairies in the country and has helped to make goat cheese a popular addition to New York state’s artsian cheese market. Dave’s parents, Steve and Susanne Messmer, acquired Lively Run in 1995, and in 2019, Dave, his brother Pete and their long-time friend Katie Shaw took over the helm. Dave, the farm’s new business and finance manager, credits his experience at Cornell’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management for giving him the perfect preparation for his new role.

What attracted you to the Dyson School?

I applied to Dyson because it’s a top business school and the program really included everything I needed for this next step in my career—everything from food management to dairy and agriculture. I grew up nearby and always wanted to go to Cornell, so it was pretty amazing when it actually happened. 

I didn’t actually come to Cornell straight out of high school. Instead, I first got my associate’s degree from SUNY Morrisville and then spent a few years working at Lively Run and pursuing my custom woodworking business. Had I not taken this alternative path to Dyson, I wouldn’t have had as much business operations experience—or the thirst or excitement to learn as much as I did.

I continued working at Lively Run while attending Dyson, so everything I was learning in the classroom had a direct application on the farm. Cost accounting, financial planning, supply chain management—I took pieces from every class and applied them to Lively Run. As a result, my Dyson experience was greatly enriched.

How does Lively Run partner with Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences?

We work with the Cornell Cooperative Extension quite a bit. Specifically, we have taken several of the food safety courses. The network of food industry folks that Cornell brings together from across New York state is enormously useful and establishes a great sense of community. We’re fortunate to be in close proximity to the classes.

Cheesemaking in the Finger Lakes is on the rise. How does Lively Run stand out from its competitors?

We want to make the highest quality cheese using only all-natural ingredients. We don’t compromise on quality for cost. We ensure the integrity of our process from end to end by working closely with our dairy suppliers on animal health and humane practices. We want to grow, but we’re not going to compromise on our values, which isn’t always easy.

Looking ahead, what are you most excited about for Lively Run?

As the next generation of this farm, we are excited to think about where our brand will be in the next few years. We’ve had some pretty big wins with awards for the quality of our cheese. Most recently, our Cayuga Blue won first place at the 2017 American Cheese Society Judging and Competition. The market’s reception to our products and recognition of our brand regionally has been super positive, so I’m looking forward to bringing our products to a larger, national market.

We also have plans to grow the farm store and create more of a hub for the community to learn about healthy and sustainable local food production. Right now, the farm is a big tourist draw, which is great, but we also want to turn it into more of a local destination, too.

I’ve essentially spent my whole life at Lively Run, and I’ve seen our potential as a national brand grow. I can’t wait to get out there and make it happen.